STUDY OBJECTIVES 1) To investigate the impact of acetazolamide, a drug commonly prescribed for altitude sickness, on cortical oscillations in patients with obstructive sleep apnea syndrome (OSAS). 2) To examine alterations in the sleep EEG after short-term discontinuation of continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy. DESIGN Data from two double-blind, placebo-controlled randomized cross-over design studies were analyzed. SETTING Polysomnographic recordings in sleep laboratory at 490 m and at moderate altitudes in the Swiss Alps: 1630 or 1860 m and 2590 m. PATIENTS Study 1: 39 OSAS patients. Study 2: 41 OSAS patients. INTERVENTIONS Study 1: OSAS patients withdrawn from treatment with CPAP. Study 2: OSAS patients treated with autoCPAP. Treatment with acetazolamide (500-750 mg) or placebo at moderate altitudes. MEASUREMENTS AND RESULTS An evening dose of 500 mg acetazolamide reduced slow-wave activity (SWA; approximately 10%) and increased spindle activity (approximately 10%) during non-REM sleep. In addition, alpha activity during wake after lights out was increased. An evening dose of 250 mg did not affect these cortical oscillations. Discontinuation of CPAP therapy revealed a reduction in SWA (5-10%) and increase in beta activity (approximately 25%). CONCLUSIONS The higher evening dose of 500 mg acetazolamide showed the "spectral fingerprint" of Benzodiazepines, while 250 mg acetazolamide had no impact on cortical oscillations. However, both doses had beneficial effects on oxygen saturation and sleep quality.